Coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate thanks to many factors, mostly caused by humans. For instance, when we pollute the earth and our oceans by burning greenhouse gases, we cause climate change. This affects the coral as they can’t withstand the water raising by only a few degrees.
This often causes coral bleaching, which kills these animals. Also, storms can destroy reefs, also often caused by humans affecting the environment. Around 50% of our coral has died, and this has a major impact on many other organisms, and the world in general. Many fish live in reefs, and need it survive, and this ruins the ocean, the most important part of the Earth. This comes back to hurt us as well. Eutrophication is a process in which excess nutrients enter lakes. This often caused by human activities and inputs of nutrients from urban and agricultural areas and from the lake’s watershed. The nutrients that enter these lakes contribute to make the water very turbid, or cloudy and murky.
This often causes a major water pollution issue, as there are too many nutrients that stimulate the growth of plants and algae, and they can die. This can also kill other types of aquatic life like fish. Some of the nutrients that affect these lakes include nitrates and phosphates found in fertilizers.An example of the many endangered marine animals is the beluga whale. Beluga whales are found throughout the Arctic, near Alaska, and in Europe near Russia and Greenland. These animals are usually found in shallow coastal waters, but are very adaptive and can live in both cold and warmer waters. They are usually around 12-14 feet long, and covered with a thick layer of grey blubber. The Cook Inlet belugas are by far the most endangered type of beluga whale, even having its population declining by 47% from 1994 and 1998.
In 2016, it was estimated that there were only 328 Cook Inlet belugas left. This species becoming endangered is mostly from human activity, including oil and gas production, commercial fishing, habitat destruction, and other activities that lead to pollution. These activities can also lead to global warming and a have a major effect on the ocean and the belugas’ habitat. Also, in 1994-1998, there was a big issue of over-harvesting and hunting of beluga whales. Many things were done to stop these acts, including the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act that banned people from hunting for whales. In 2008, the NOAA published a “Conversation Plan” for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale, which shows many proposed conservation actions. Also, there was a management of the Alaska Native hunts for the Cook Inlet beluga that was an agreement between the NMFS and the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council.
There are different ways of catching fish and some are more sustainable than others. Dredging is when a metal mesh bag is dragged along the sea floor, which is bad for the habitat. It damages the area and also picks up other marine life which doesn’t usually survive. Gillnetting It when a curtain if netting hangs in the water and traps the fish when it tries to swim through. This can be dangerous because it can accidentally kill marine animals. However, this can be sustainable in areas like Alaska because not much marine life gets stuck. In longlining, individual lines have hooks to catch fish. This can be unsustainable when longlining attracts other species like birds.
Purse seining is like a big drawstring purse that has a net to catch the fish. Trawling is when a funnel-shaped net is towed through the water at different depths. This method can destroy when used near the ocean floor. The most sustainable methods for fishing are the use of a fishing pole, harpooning (fisherman aim at individual fish), traps, and trolling.Right now, there are many steps that need to be taken if we want to improve our oceans. On an individual basis in our daily lives, we need to reduce our energy consumption and be energy efficient. This includes changing your light bulbs to LEDs, and washing your clothes in cold or warm water and hanging to dry instead of using a dryer.
This little acts can limit climate change which is a major issue that affects the ocean as a whole by killing marine organisms and coral. Also, we should use public transportation and walk instead of driving everywhere. This saves money and lessens your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.
Other ways to lessen greenhouse gas use is using less heat and air conditioning, and not traveling by plane as much. Also, another big way we can help the ocean is to limit the amount of large-scale commercial fishing in our oceans. This is a major issue because we are killing many organisms, and destroying lots of habitats. Even if we aren’t the ones that are catching the fish in the nets, we can affect the economy by boycotting the purchase of fish as food, and do our own part in stopping the fishing in a mass scale. If we don’t do our part and spread awareness, lots marine animals may be gone sooner than later. Two examples of freshwater areas that were polluted in the 1960s but have been restored to good health are the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S., but had serious water pollution from population growth there. In fact, there used to be a lot of oysters, crabs, and fish, but they went away. The pollution also came from sewage and industrial plants, for instance. So, the US started a program in 1983 to reduce pollution there. In 2008, the program didn’t meet its goals, but in 2011, it was found that efforts there were having a positive impact on the water quality and the crab population.
These efforts on ongoing, and help the bay continuously. Another freshwater area that has been renewed is Lake Erie. Lake Erie was very polluted by the 1960s, mainly because factories dumping pollution into the lake and into waterways like the Cuyahoga River that flowed into it. Also, fertilizer and pesticides from nearby farms ran into the lake, and waste from sewers made its way there.
So, Lake Erie had high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, which led to algal blooms. The lack of oxygen in the lake led to the death of many fish. Also, there was a fire in 1969 that created a lot of pollution there.
In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and the U.S. and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. There were improved farming techniques which resulted in a significant recovery of the lake in the 1970s. After a few years of focus on the environment, Lake Erie went from being a “dead lake” to having a large number of freshwater fish.
This renewal brought tourism and small business growth to the area around Lake Erie. Wetlands are very important to the overall health of the environment. For examples, wetlands protect the shores from wave action, absorb pollutants, and improve water quality. Also, they provide a habitat for a wide diversity of plants and animals, supporting organisms that aren’t found anywhere else. Wetlands are thought of as “biological supermarkets”, as they provide lots of food that help many species. Also, wetlands have an important role in the ecology of a watershed. This is because the combination of shallow water and a good amount of nutrients and primary productivity is perfect for the development of organisms that are at the base of the food web.Most of the plastic and trash in the Pacific accumulates in the North Pacific Ocean, which is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
This area spans from the western coast of North America to Japan. This area is like a “solar system” of garbage, that is populated by other smaller islands of trash that are spread out across many miles. This area is filled with tons of trash, and most of it is made of plastic. A main reason why there is a big percentage of debris accumulated there is because there is the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is a huge spiral of sea formed by colliding currents. The upper part of the gyre is where water in the South Pacific converges into the colder water coming from the North. This convergence zone is where a lot of trash is collected caused by the movement of these currents into this central area.Invasive species are organisms that invade areas or ecosystems where they do not naturally occur.
Some of these species can do harm to an ecosystem in an economic or ecological way. These species can harm ecosystems and agricultural or recreational activities dependent on those ecosystems. In fact, they can harm our health as humans. A freshwater example of an invasive species is a zebra mussel. Zebra mussels were first discovered in 1988, in North America. Most scientists believe that they came to the Great Lakes on a cargo ship, specifically from ballast water, which is water that is carried in ships’ tanks to improve stability and balance. When ships use ballast water, plant and animals that live in the water are also picked up. These tiny shellfish spread rapidly around the area.
However, zebra mussels have a negative effect on the environment because they eat tiny food particles that they filter out of the water, which diminishes food for larval fish and other animals, and causes aquatic vegetation to grow. Also, zebra mussels sometimes attach themselves to native mussels which can kill them. They also posed a big threat to pipes for water utilities, where they clustered on each other and severely constricted the pipes. An marine example of an invasive species is the european green crab. European green crabs first appeared off of Cape Cod in the 1800s, coming from the European coast and northern Africa from seafood shipments or ballast water.
They appear on five continents, with a huge presence on both American coasts. European green crabs try to eat anything there size or smaller, and one crab can eat three dozen small mussels a day. They can also crack young clams and oysters, and probably the cause for the end of commercial clam harvesting in so parts of Maine.
An aquifer is a body of rock that can contain groundwater. In general, groundwater is very susceptible to pollutants, and contamination of groundwater also means that its aquifer is polluted too. Contamination of groundwater often occurs when products like gasoline, oil, and road salts enter the groundwater, which causes it to become dangerous. Groundwater is very important, and also for our use as humans. This is because most of the U.S. population relies on groundwater for drinking water.
Also, it is a very important source of water that is used for irrigation. Because lots of man-made and land materials make it into our groundwater, we need to find a way to stop this and to not let our aquifers get polluted. To do this, we need to eliminate the pollution source.
We shall do this by reducing our chemical use altogether, and to manage waste by properly disposing toxic materials like chemicals, paint, and motor oil. If we reduce our pollutants, there will no pollution in groundwater, and our aquifers that hold the groundwater will unharmed.